Constructions of Justice in American Comics

Staci Strobl, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Nickie D. Phillips, CUNY Graduate Center

ABSTRACT
American entertainment from television to the movies is replete with themes of justice. Comic books, an often overlooked medium, traditionally feature justice-related plots. Previous studies of comics have focused on superheroes who, in the absence of satisactory state responses to crime, mete out vigilante justice. Our study examines whether extralegal solutions to crime are a dominant theme in a broad cross-section of American comics in both superhero and non-superhero genres. To what extent do comics both reflect American notions of justice and shape them? We will discern patterns of justice in a content analysis of story arcs in comic monthlies and trade paperbacks. Our sample of 20 titles is drawn from the top 200 best-selling comic books released in December of 2003 and includes Justice League, Rose & Thorn, Wolverine, Punisher, The Losers, Batman, Wonder Woman and 100 Bullets, among others.

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Updated 05/20/2006